Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The art of bicycle maintenance

It was a day of milestones. I patched my first tire. I biked my first trail. I cursed audibly at my first DC cab driver -- he totally swerved into my lane not two feet ahead of me. Jerk. That was not the term I used. Sorry, mom. (For those who know me, this is uncommon. In fact, in two years of teaching in the Brooklyn public schools, my high school students found it a source of constant wonder that I never swore in class. One time, about a year and a half into my teaching career, I said "crap" in a moment of frustration over my students' failure to proofread their formal essays -- come on, people! -- and I think three of the kids nearly fainted. True story.)

So, the tire patch: Sheldon Brown came to the rescue yet again, though I would have liked some visuals on this section of the website. For your reference, should you need to patch a tire tube one day, here are a few tricks I had to figure out for myself:
1. Throwing your hands up in despair doesn't make your rear wheel come off the bike. (Finding the quick release knob and jiggling it is considerably more effective.)
2. Mark the leak location with a twist tie (because pen/marker doesn't show up on a black tube).
3. Taking silly pictures helps make things less exasperating.

Next, the trail: Today marked my longest ride to date -- up 13th Street, through downtown Silver Spring (had a bit of trouble with the routing, obviously), and, finally, the length of the Capital Crescent Trail. Whew! I think that comes out to something around 15 miles, give or take. The low point was when I almost got run over by a van while in a crosswalk (apparently the walk signal does not apply to bikers) near the Silver Spring metro/entrance to the proposed Crescent Trail extension. This time it was the pedestrian about 5 feet behind me in the crosswalk who cursed. (Sheldon remained stoic throughout the whole incident.) Once I made it onto the Crescent Trail proper, though, the ride was much smoother. There were quite a number of other cyclists (do I dare count myself among them?) and joggers, some of whom even smiled back as I coasted along. While not a clear day, it was right around 65 degrees, and the lack of cabs trying to run me over made the ride rather pleasant.

I made it to Mitch's place near Foggy Bottom in time to make dinner and catch... a rerun of Lost?! At least the company was pleasant, the food was good, it was one of the better episodes so far this season so warranted a rewatch, and to top it all off I had no broken bones. Upon my arrival home, though, I'm wondering if there's another leak in the rear tire. Hmmm. It's feeling a little flabby again... Good thing I picked up a spare tire at the bike shop today (ba dum bum).

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